In spite of local dishonesty, corruption and the general municipal extravagance, San Francisco continued to grow in both size and beauty. While the excessive and imprudent imports of 1850 had led to a glut in the market, a drop in prices and serious losses to the shippers, which became a characteristic of 1851, a remarkable change took place in 1852. Better judgment in the amount and type of goods the market was demanding resulted in rising prices and a firmer marketplace.
But even in this healthier state of trade there were still some adverse fluctuations. Toward the latter half of the year the supply of a number of necessities ran short and the prices for these items rose to unreasonable levels. One of the most bothersome of these shortages was the supply of printing paper that, by July, had given out almost entirely. On that account the Alta California had to be printed for several months on a small double sheet that measured only ten by fourteen inches. The Herald was published on coarse colored paper that was normally used for wrapping packages.
Flour, which sold for eight dollars a barrel in March, now commanded up to forty dollars and rice, once only a few cents per pound, was now fifty cents. Many other common goods necessary for life in the city were similarly affected, but, thanks to the use of the new, faster clipper ships, the situation was quickly repaired and San Francisco, not withstanding more serious blows yet to come, continued to progress.
John Putnam is the author of Hangtown Creek, a thrilling saga of the early California gold rush.